It’s been said that there is currently too much TV, and shows only have so much time to convince us to tune in. That means if a show’s premise seems dull or ridiculous, it’s easy to think “no, thanks” and change the channel. But sometimes a TV show can surprise you by transcending its silly premise and becoming part of your don’t-miss TV schedule.
Here are nine shows that were way better than they had any right to be.
TV shows that were way better than they had any right to be
"Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (1997-2003)A TV adaptation of that Kristy Swanson movie? As if. But the film deviated strongly from Joss Whedon's original vision, and "Buffy" TV show was clearly his baby. What other show could get away with a pitch-perfect musical episode and an episode in which the characters barely speak a word? Not many, if any at all.20th Century Fox
"Angel" (1999-2003)Angel seemed like such an unlikely character to spin off from “Buffy," and a supernatural detective agency? Yeesh. But where Boreanaz often came across as wooden on his previous show, on "Angel" his acting skills really blossomed and the stories grew. By the time an episode saw Angel turned into a puppet, the comedy and action felt entirely earned.20th Century Fox
"Veronica Mars" (2004-2007)Nancy Drew much? But while there is a certain suspension of disbelief that a teenage girl could attend high school and run a successful private detective side-business, Kristen Bell's charm and acting chops made it easy. Not to mention the brilliantly-plotted season arcs that were surprising and suspenseful. No wonder the Kickstarter campaign to fund a "Veronica Mars" movie reached its goal in under ten hours.Warner Bros. Television
"The Vampire Diaries" (2009-present)Premiering at the height of the "Twilight" craze, "The Vampire Diaries" looked like an even worse imitation. But "Twilight" this ain't, as "The Vampire Diaries" quickly found its own identity. Plots that might take months to develop on another show series would resolve within one episode, and the chemistry between Dobrev and her co-stars was compelling.Warner Bros. Television
"The United States of Tara" (2009-2011)TV hasn't had the best history of treating mental illness with sensitivity, and "Tara" just looked like a way to mock dissociative identity disorder. Collette certainly got plenty of opportunities to show off her acting range (her 2009 Emmy win was well-earned), but "Tara" did a formidable job of depicting how a woman with dissociative identity disorder would struggle to maintain a normal life, and how her illness would affect those closest to her.DreamWorks Television
"Once Upon A Time" (2011-present)Fairy tale characters with amnesia? I mean, come on. But on the Disney-owned ABC network, "OUAT" has the entire vault of fairy tales to draw from, and it found its voice by really developing the untold backstories of Snow White, Prince Charming, Sleeping Beauty, and the like. Toss in the compelling and sympathetic character of the evil queen Regina (Lana Parrilla), and "OUAT" becomes a fun, action-filled drama that just happens to feature fairy tale characters.ABC Studios
"Hart of Dixie" (2011-2015)Rachel Bilson is very cute and charming, but casting her as a doctor seemed like a stretch. (what was with all the pairs of formal shorts?) "Hart of Dixie" never fully convinced us that Bilson could play a doctor, but the actress's natural charisma made that easy to ignore. It helped that the show surrounded her with sexy men (Scott Porter and Wilson Bethel, hello) and appealing townspeople in Bluebell.CBS Television Studios
"Cougar Town" (2009-2015)The term "cougar" was already tired (and offensive) by 2009. Yes, let's mock women for enjoying dating and sex! But to give creator Bill Lawrence credit, he realized quickly that the premise didn't have much longevity and decided instead to focus the comedy on Jules's relationships with her friends. Thanks to Cox's top-notch comedic timing and great performances by supporting cast members "Cougar Town" became a sweet and very funny sitcom about a bunch of people who like to drink wine and make fun of people.ABC Studios
"Arrow" (2012-present)After years of brilliant Marvel superhero movies—and a few not-so-brilliant DC movies ("Superman Returns," anyone?)—it seemed impossible that the limited budget and scope of a TV show could tell a compelling superhero story. But “Arrow" never looks cheap, and thanks to Stephen Amell (and some well-choreographed fight scenes), each episode is entirely thrilling. Plus, the show clearly made the right choice promoting Emily Bett Rickards to series regular.Warner Bros. Television